Fed up with aggressive telemarketers calling his home, Roger Anderson initially constructed a simple test that would apply to every new number that called his house, sending auto-dialled calls to a recorded message to waste their time while adding legitimate friends and family to a white list.
While the system worked flawlessly, he noticed most marketing calls were only lasting a few seconds before hanging up. The crafty spammers were calling with auto-diallers that work their way through huge lists of numbers, only forwarding the call to a human telemarketer when a real human victim was heard.
Determined to have his system waste as much of the dodgy telemarketers' time as possible, Anderson made some modifications to his system.
At first he had his recording say "hello, hello, hello" a few times to prompt the auto-dialler to forward to a human. Then he added some "uh-huh"s and "right"s. Then a routine that inserted these non-committal affirmatives in between the caller's script to string them along.
Eventually, he had created an entire algorithm of clips that can keep a marketer talking for minutes on end, and he now posts recordings of those conversations - as well as advice for people affected by endless dodgy marketing - at his blog Jolly Roger Telephone and on the robot's Facebook page.
Most ingeniously, the robot detects a break in the conversation when the caller is trying to break up the long stream of "uh-huh"s, shifting to one of several inane subject changers. These include telling the caller they sound like a friend from high school, and freaking out that a bee is nearby. In each case, the robot then asks the caller to begin again from the start.
A newer version of the robot always asks "is this a real person?" at the start of the call. If the caller doesn't pause to consider the question, the robot knows it's talking to a recording and hits the 1 button a few times to get through to a human.